Saturday, October 19, 2013

NZ - Nelson to Hokitika on the west coast

This was the day we would drive to see the magnificent west coast of the South Island.

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After heading out of Nelson, you are soon into mountainous scenery. 

These pine tree forests are commercial.

We were amused by this viewpoint. Somebody had installed this dial to show what was what but unfortunately the pine trees grew to block the view.

It's wonderful to be behind the wheel zooming down the hill into these landscapes. However, there are lots of really sharp bends such as the one a couple of hundred yards away. I deliberately chose a manual (stick) shift for the rental car since I figured it would be better to drive here than an automatic.

We were wondering if these were gorse bushes.

The rivers all flow very fast. These are not the slow meandering streams of Australia. In fact if you take away the occasional gum tree you see in NZ and some of the architecture, this country looks totally different from Oz.

There was now much less traffic than on the east coast.

Most of the river beds have large pebbles and rocks. Presumably these are the remains of former glaciers.

Because it is so far south, shaded spots in the South Island can get icy in winter.

Interesting bridge.

We had to wait for the opposing traffic to pass under an overhang where the road becomes a single lane. Single lane bridges are common in this area.

I seem to remember that 40 years ago, this road was mostly dirt.

The overhang.

The rain had been threatening but now it was well and truly wet.

A train bridge. Despite the difficult terrain and multiple rivers and gorges, a train line follows the west coast.

We detoured to Westport for lunch. It's not particularly an attractive city, but it does have this art deco town hall that was built in 1940.

Small breweries are very popular in NZ and so far, what I have tasted has been very good.

Our first glimpse of the western coast, power lines and all.

Big powerful waves being driven by the roaring forties that circle the globe. Winds can be very strong on the West Coast.

The vegetation on the western side of the road is quite lush with lots of ferns. The area gets approximately 80 inches of rain a year.

It reminded me a bit of the Oregon coast line.

An old unused bridge which I would have driven over 40 years ago. The bridge had rail tracks and carried both trains and cars. As you might expect, the train had priority.

There was obviously still a lot of work to do.

These ferns are so cool.

Interesting strata with the trees growing out of them.

We stopped to look at a special park called Punakaiki. There will be a separate blog for this.

We pulled up at a single lane bridge.

It turned out to be one of the combined rail / car bridges and it is still used by trains. 

I was tired after the long drive and Marianne visited a kiwi museum in Hokitika. You are not allowed to take photos of the kiwis because they like it to be very dark but she did get photos of some eels.

It was a great drive even though it was wet for part of the journey. Hokitika is small but more attractive than Greymouth and Westport.

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